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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 9, 2004

9 March 2004
Chally City Administration Finds New Place For Controversial Church
The Chally city administration has relocated the future construction site of the Orthodox St. Tatyana Church to a field near a former cinema, Kama-press reported on 5 March. The KamAZ automotive concern will reportedly finance the project, which was initially planned for the city's Victory Park. The local Muslim community strongly opposed the idea, arguing that the park was devoted not only to the memory of Orthodox World War II veterans (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3, 4, 7, 10, 14, and 31 October, 4 and 25 November, and 30 December 2002). Meanwhile, the Chally city administration is still undecided on the future location of a new mosque, although the mayor, Ildar Khalikov, has already approved the building's design. The mosque's construction expenses are to be shared by the city hall and Tatenergo.

New Hotel With Presidential Connections Opens In Kazan
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, head of presidential staff Ekzam Gobeydullin, State Council chairman Farid Mukhametshin, and Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov attended the opening ceremony of the luxurious Mirage hotel in downtown Kazan on 6 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The building is owned by Nira-export -- the foreign trade company run by Shaimiev's son, Radik. To complete the $38 million hotel, Nira-export borrowed money from the TAIF group, which is also partially controlled by Radik Shaimiev and Western banks. According to an unofficial source within TAIF's management, the reported cost of the hotel is "sufficiently lower" than the actual expenses.

Government Continues Free Medication Program
Tatarstan's government will allocate some $14.4 million of its budget for the distribution of free medicines to the residents of the republic, Rosbalt reported on 5 March. Some $141.8 million worth of medication is annually sold in the republic, representing 3 percent of Russia's drugs market.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan's Tatar NGOs Support Putin In Election
The Association of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups, Ittifaq, appealed on 6 March to Bashkortostan's Tatars to vote for Vladimir Putin in the 14 March presidential election, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 6 March. The Tatar leaders said in their appeal that the meeting by Putin with delegates of the third World Tatar Congress in August 2002 in Kazan was a sign of his respect for Tatars. Support for the idea of giving state-language status to Tatar in Bashkortostan, which was shown by Sergei Kirienko, the Volga District's presidential envoy, leads Tatars to believe that the same position is held by Putin, the authors of the appeal said.

Participants at the meeting criticized the article on the issue of the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan published in "Novye izvestiya" on 27 February and reprinted by virtually all official outlets in Bashkortostan the previous week. In the publication, efforts by Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev to defend the national-cultural rights of Tatars living outside Tatarstan, including in Bashkortostan, and his promotion of a better status for Tatar in Bashkortostan were labeled as interference in Bashkortostan's affairs. The gathering decided to thank Shaimiev for his efforts defending the rights of Bashkortostan's Tatars.

At the meeting, the association head and Tatarstan's trade and economic representative in Bashkortostan, Ramil Bignov, informed people about his talks with Russia's presidential administration on the issue of Bashkortostan's Tatars.

'Year Of The Environment' In Bashkortostan Costs Billions Of Rubles
Over 5.9 billion rubles ($206 million) has been allocated for environmental programs in Bashkortostan this year, RosBalt reported on 5 March, citing the press service of the Russian Natural Resources Ministry's Bashkir Directorate. This year has been declared the Year of the Environment in the republic. Over 4 billion rubles for the budget will be provided by Bashkir enterprises, 1.1 billion rubles by the republican budget, and 477 million rubles by the federal budget. Programs include the promotion of environmental protection, environmental projects, and the development of nature-reserve legislation.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova